There is a phenomenon in business that I have noticed – nearly all businesses get 95% of stuff right. Whether its a restaurant, hotel, airline, or department store, there is a minimum number of things that the general public expects if you want to stay in business.

Ultimately, it is the last 5% of effort – that distance between 95% and 100% – that will separate the truly special companies from average ones.

When we owned our property management company in the Smoky Mountains, we considered the 95% Rule to be a guiding principle. On the first day of each person’s employment, we would explain that to be truly exceptional we needed to get 100% of things right.

This meant pleasant surprises for guests, personal touches, showing people we listened, and making sure that each stay was as close to perfect and remarkable as possible. The 95% Rule drove us to invest in intangibles like gift boxes for every guest, pumpkin pies delivered to 100 properties on Thanksgiving Day, and surprise parties for a girl celebrating her sixteenth birthday.

Ritz-Carlton, who epitomizes a brand that is continually striving to wow customers, recently demonstrated what 100%-level customer service looks like.

One family staying at the upscale hotel had brought specialized eggs and milk for their child that suffers from severe food allergies. When they arrived at the Ritz-Carlon Bali, they realized they had a big issue – in transit, the specialized eggs had broken and allergen-free milk had soured.

The manager of the $400 per night luxury hotel quickly sprung into action. He sent his staff to scour Bali and the surrounding area – a suitable replacement was not found. This is good customer service.

However, the manager and executive chef were undeterred on their quest to provide this family with exceptional (dare we say 100%?) customer service. The executive chef remembered having seen the exact products the family needed at a store in Singapore.

The chef contacted his Mother-In-Law in Singapore and arranged for her to go and buy all of the products. Once she purchased the needed items, she took a 2 1/2 hour flight to Bali and delivered the groceries. 

Ritz-Carlton blew the family away with this incredible customer service. The hotel spared no expense and accomplished the seemingly impossible.

This is 100%. They did not care what the market standard was. They weren’t interested in providing good customer service. They would not stop until they knew they had provided great customer service.

How does a global brand like Ritz-Carlton managed to maintain a culture of excellent service at such a large scale? They have implemented a top-down culture that empowers team members to do exactly this. Every single employee – from the part-time janitor to the CEO – has the power to spend $2,000 without permission to exceed a guest’s expectations.

The 95% rule applies to so many areas of life. Do we actually care about being above average? Do we strive for perfection?

Imagine a marathon runner that stopped after 25 miles. If we don’t strive for 100% in each area of our personal and professional life, we are no better.

Are you satisfied with 95%?

Be exceptional.

The 95% Rule
The vast majority of all businesses will do the bare minimum to survive and generate a profit. The bare minimum typically represents 95% of the effort it would take to be the customer’s ideal company. The closer you get to closing the 5% gap, the closer you get to greatness.